You’ve arrived at The Bee, the online arm of Beyond Criticism, a series dedicated to formal experiments in critical response. We’re interested in modes of argumentation that take up the strategies of literature itself, both in our book series) and through other projects in poetry, prose, life-writing, film, music, photography, co-readings, etc.
If you have a full book proposal that speaks to the aims in the series, send it our way. (No pitches or drafts, please.) If you have any short completed piece (textual, visual, and/or audial) that you think would be right for the site, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief explanation and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
beyond criticism discovers new forms for new thinking about literature; a literary criticism that is itself literary, speaking to anyone who thinks that reading matters.
Our first wave of publications is a declaration of intent, suggesting the range of work we hope to foster, written by some of the liveliest minds in the business – cue: the discursive verse-essay in The Winnowing Fan; collaborative critical fiction in Macbeth Macbeth; radical life-writing in Desire: a memoir; poetic meditation in Ceaseless Music; critique as comic fragment in Character as Form; rewriting as ecological act in ____ Mt. [blank mount]; and graphic-poetic narrative in Orpheus and Eurydice.
Many of the greatest works of literature have also been great acts of reading: Homer’s Iliad is rewritten in Virgil’s Aeneid, his Odyssey in Joyce’s Ulysses. Milton’s Paradise Lost extends the Book of Genesis, and is itself refashioned in works as varied as Pope’s Rape of the Lock, Richardson’s Clarissa, Wordsworth’s Prelude, and Pullman’s Dark Materials. Even Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear are in part responses to earlier plays of the same name, themselves of course rewritten or adapted in countless artistic forms – each such re-imagining itself being a work of criticism. Keats composed his visions less from the outside world than from poems, old and new, that he loved.
Historically many of the most important works of theory and philosophy have taken literary forms. The pre-Socratic Parmenides is known only through a single fragmentary poem; Plato wrote in imaginative dialogues; More’s Utopia, Campanella’s City of the Sun, and Bacon’s New Atlantis offer political philosophy in narrative fiction; Leibniz’s Theodicy is encapsulated in a dizzying fable that is itself parodied in Voltaire’s satiric philosophic fiction, Candide; Kierkegaard’s vision is expressed through ironic surrogate personae, and Nietzsche’s through poetic or polemical aphorism. More recent theorists such as Barthes, Irigaray, and Kristeva have continued to stretch the formal boundaries of criticism.
Oscar Wilde knew that criticism is always an act of fancy, wishfulness, imaginative larceny. Virginia Woolf read her characters’ minds like she read the journal of Dorothy Wordsworth. The tradition continues. Recent or contemporary writers such as David Foster Wallace, Anne Carson, Susan Howe, Colm Toibin, and Ben Lerner frequently collapse the supposed binary of critical and creative writing. Various kinds of hybrid writing are increasingly popular, blurring divisions between art criticism, gender theory, and memoir (Maggie Nelson) or literary criticism and poetry (Max Porter).
beyond criticism builds on these traditions. In particular, it seeks to revivify such work within the academy – where so much of the most exciting, exploratory, groundbreaking thinking is still taking place – and in doing so to reach out to communities of readers beyond the cloister. We want to break down false divisions between scholarship and imagination, accountability and adventure. To think critically is to think creatively; to think creatively is to think critically.
Crucial here is the written form that our thinking takes. Our mission is a positive one, designed to inspire new writers and new readers, new readings and new writings. We are not interested in pouring thoughts into standard templates. We want to liberate critical thinking and writing from obedience to dominant models – depending upon the work, this might be at the level of sentence, syntax, argument, vocabulary, mood, mode, technology, medium, and so on. We ask that our writers discover the form that best embodies their ideas, and that best communicates the life in reading – which also means the life in the works they are reading.
beyond criticism offers a challenge to mainstream publishing to build bridges between academic and trade markets. There is a hunger among wider reading publics for ideas, argument, experiment, for fearless thinking and theorising that does not simplify or condescend. In both practice and spirit, the division between academic and non-academic humanities is a fiction. We communicate as teachers; we wish also to communicate as writers to worlds outside the academy.
our editorial board
Katharine Craik (Oxford Brookes University, UK)
Simon Palfrey (University of Oxford, UK)
Joanna Picciotto (University of California, Berkeley, USA)
John Schad (University of Lancaster, UK)
Thomas Karshan (University of East Anglia, UK)
K. A. Wisniewski (University of Maryland, USA)